Wednesday, March 30, 2011

American Idol Top 11 try to do Sir Elton John proud

First the good news (for the remaining 11 American Idol contestants): All 11 of them are going on the summer tour -- and pocketing a big chunk of change as a result. Now the bad news: instead of one contestant going home tomorrow, two will be. Though depending on who those two are, it could be welcome news for me (and millions or thousands of other frustrated American Idol viewers).

And while there are many -- and I mean many -- great Elton John songs to choose from*, including lots of ballads for Pia, Thia, and Stefano to warble, and last week's Songs of Motown theme went down waaaay better than feared, I do not have high hopes for Elton John night. (Were most of these kids even born when Sir Elton had his biggest success or are we going to be hearing a lot from The Lion King? How much y'all wanna bet that Thia Megia -- who I am so tempted to call Thingy Majiggy -- sings "Can You Feel the Love Tonight"?)

Wonder if Casey Abrams will sing "I'm Still Standing"... (though I think "Honky Cat" is a better choice vocally)

ANYWAY, on with the show.

Scotty McCreery singing (big suprise! not!) "Country Comfort": Okay, I didn't realize Elton John actually released a country song. So this should be a no-brainer for Scotty. Though it would have been fun to see him wearing a pair of big glasses with sequins and a feather boa -- and high-heeled cowboy boots (for Steven Tyler). [Listening.] So... what can I say? ("It's Alfred E. Newman!" said the spouse.) Another solid if not awe-inspiring performance from Mr. Country Music. We give Scotty McCreery an A-.

Naima Adedapo singing "I'm Still Standing," as a reggae song: (She was my second choice for singing "I'm Still Standing," though it will be ironic if she goes home tomorrow. And the way Jimmy Iovine set that up it doesn't sound like he has a whole lot of confidence in Naima.) So... I like it. Who knew Elton John was like "this" with Bob Marley? (Though they probably knew each other.) Seriously, I would download this song. "It's the best thing she's done," said the spouse. Yup. Even J-THREE-O dug it. WHA?! What you talkin' 'bout Jennifer Lopez? Randy mon? You too? That was NOT corny. Guess J. Lo and the Dawg want Naima gone. Hm. Our grade for Naima Adedapo: A-

Paul McDonald singing "Rocket Man": Dude, lose the jacket -- and the pants. And... is Paul high? (Probably not but he sounds like he's on something.) Don't know about all of you, but this rocket misfired. Did it crash and burn? Eh, wasn't that bad but it totally didn't work for me. It was... listless. No spark. That jacket has way more flash than that performance had. Time to send Paul home. Our grade for Paul McDonald: B-

Pia Toscano singing "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me": Oh goody, another ballad from Pia! (Shoot me.) And I totally don't believe she's going to "get us moving" next week. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Pia can sing -- and fill out a dress nicely. But I am so BORED. All of her performances sound the same -- and to me lack real emotion. (But the spouse really liked it.) Clearly guys love her, people without penises, not as much. Our grade for Pia Toscano: A for singing (and styling), B for boring (from me and J-THREE-O). Hope she does shake things up next week. (Btw, you could level the same criticism at Scotty.)

Stefano "Hey, Doesn't He Kinda Look Like Tony Danza?" Langone singing "Tiny Dancer": OMG, is Stefano wearing a Rasta cap?! Also, is that a death sentence Jimmy Iovine has just pronounced on the Italian stallion? (Do I see a horse's head in Stefano's future -- or bed?) More importantly, when can I get off this cruise ship? I'm starting to get a little sea sick. You had a busy day today, Stefano. But will the Tiny Dancer live to see another week? Maybe. Our grade for Stefano "Long Gone" Langone: B [H/T to friend of the blog VB for the Tony Danza ID.]

Lauren Alaina singing "Candle in the Wind": I know this sounds (is) catty but could American Idol please flip for Louis Licari to fly out and properly color Lauren's hair? She's a very attractive girl, but she needs a professional to cover those brown roots properly. (She also could stand to lose 15-20 pounds.) That said, the girl can sing. It was a beautiful, "sensitive" performance. [And a great comedic performance by Steven Tyler.] And I'm really liking Lauren again. Our grade for Lauren Alaina: A

James Durbin singing "Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting)": Faint praise (?) again from Jimmy Iovine. Doesn't bode well.... Hmm... why does this performance remind me of the Bay City Rollers, and not in a good way? (And yes, I know it's not the same Saturday song, people.) "His singing is just not that good," said the spouse. And, uh, what's the deal with the flaming piano? Is that to distract us from James's mediocre singing (and big ears)? Can't believe the judges loved it. It was off-key and derivative -- definitely not a great singing performance. Not big James fans. Our grade for James Durbin: C

Thia Megia singing "Daniel": SIGH. I've had it with this chick. She will no doubt be safe, but I want her gone. Again, she can sing, but enough with the plodding ballads. The girl is 16. Stop acting like you're 66. Heck, I know 66 year olds who act younger than Thia. To her credit, this is her best ballad to date -- no doubt because she can relate to the lyrics. But OMG could it be any slower?! I've heard faster funeral dirges. Actually, the way Thia's singing "Daniel," it sounds like a funeral dirge. And, oh God, are those TEARS?! No way is J. Lo going to be able to say anything negative now. Though bravo to Randy for keeping it real, dawgs. And Steven Tyler may have nailed it when he said she sang a great song well (as in not great). Our grade for Thia Megia: B (for Boring)

Casey Abrams (who is dating Haley Reinhart and didn't shave off his beard and mustache) singing not "Honky Cat" (boo) but "Your Song": BAD SONG CHOICE, especially after he was almost eliminated last week. Proof that lust makes men stupid. (Btw, that funny feeling inside? It's ulcerative colitis, which Casey suffers from.) Like Casey, didn't like that performance. But he's probably safe after the big save. Our grade for Casey Abrams: A-/B+ (I was underwhelmed but the spouse liked it. Put the kid to sleep though.)

Jacob Lusk singing "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word": It also seems to be the hardest word for the judges to utter, along with "that sucked." Well, so much for not over-dramatizing.... [The dry ice machines are working overtime.] It's sad. So sad. It's a sad sad situation when a contestant sounds like he's performing in a cruise ship lounge. What have you got to do to make me love you, Jacob? Cut the cheese and just sing the damn song. Not a good song choice (though great blog fodder). I don't care what Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez say: Hated it. Our grade for Jacob Lusk: B-

Haley Reinhart singing "Bennie and the Jets": Not liking this arrangement. At all. And this was one of my favorite Elton John-Bernie Taupin songs -- until tonight. Another bad song choice. SIGH. Too screechy. And I have NO idea what Jennifer Lopez or Randy Jackson are talking about. WHA?! Our grade for Haley Reinhart: B

Personally, I thought Motown night was waaaaay better.

Can't wait for Idol to go down to one hour.

Will add who got voted off tomorrow night. J-TWO-O out.

*Not that you asked or care but my favorite Elton John songs are (in no particular order) "Crocodile Rock," "Bennie and the Jets," "The Bitch Is Back," "Daniel" (one of the very few ballads I like -- of any artist -- though now I think I hate it), "Honky Cat," "I'm Still Standing," "Island Girl," and "Take Me to the Pilot."

UPDATE 1: VB informs me that she didn't mean Stefano Langone looks like Tony Danza (though he does) but that "Tiny Dancer" sounds like "Tony Danza," as in "Hold me closer, Tony Danza." Oooooh. Also, I meant to add that I still think the Top 3 will be Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery, and Pia Toscano.

UPDATE 2: Say goodbye to Thia and Naima. (Next to go: either Paul or Stefano.)

Facebook: Blessing, Curse, or Both?

Yesterday, there was an article on MSNBC titled "Docs warn about teens and 'Facebook depression': Some teens feel they don't measure up, warns American Academy of Pediatrics." And my two immediate reactions were: a) It's not just teens; and b) I am so glad my daughter changed her mind about getting a Facebook account.

In a nutshell, researchers have "discovered" what many of us already knew, that Facebook is a minefield for kids (and adults) with low self-esteem (like me!) -- and can trigger depression. (If you are the parent of an adolescent or two who is on Facebook or is considering getting a Facebook account, read the article, which is short, and/or watch the embedded Matt Lauer interview with a pediatrician on what parents can do to help their kids safely navigate the social media minefield.)

"If you really didn't have that many friends and weren't really doing much with your life, and saw other peoples' status updates and pictures and what they were doing with friends, I could see how that would make them upset," said one 16-year-old girl. Yup.

(Seriously, I was once near tears when I saw a "friend's" pictures of her Christmas party, to which we were not invited to, though I thought we were friends. And I often find myself envious of certain "friend's" seemingly always exciting, jet-setting, filled with dozens or hundreds of friends lives, even though I know I shouldn't -- and that the poster is probably really insecure and needs to make himself feel really glamorous and important.)

That said, there are many benefits to being on Facebook, such as connecting with friends and family, sharing pictures and articles, exchanging ideas, and promoting one's blog. Indeed, thanks to Facebook I have re-connected with many old friends, made new friends, and have been turned on to many great articles, books, and good causes. And for that I am grateful. But some days.... Some days I just want to delete my Facebook account -- Twitter too. Though I can't because of work. (Indeed, one of my editors recently told me that I was her social media star -- and that the reason I keep getting assignments is that I use social media to promote my articles.)

So what do you all think of Facebook -- and why? I am really curious to know. Even if you don't like commenting, I would appreciate a comment.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cutest. Baby. Video. Ever.

I'm cold*. I'm cranky. I'm fed up with war and threats of a government shutdown and greedy bankers and executives. And while my heart goes out to the people of Japan, if I read or watch one more story about radiation levels in Japan or nuclear reactors, I'm going to start glowing in the dark. And, oh yeah, it's only Monday.

Which means... time for a really cute baby video! This one is titled "Emerson - Mommy's Nose Is Scary!" (I am assuming Emerson is the name of the baby, who is pretty darn cute -- and makes an excellent scared face.)

*It was 24 degrees Fahrenheit this morning -- and it's not much warmer right now. Punxsutawney Phil has a lot of 'splainin' to do.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Miniature giraffe, I has it*

Forget teacup pigs, miniature horses and giant rabbits, and baby elephants. What I really need is a petite lap giraffe from Sokoblovsky Farms, Russia's Finest Purveyors of Miniature Lap Giraffes -- just like you've seen on those DirecTV ads. (Click on the link, above, to see the miniature giraffe cam.)

Just remember, Mother's Day is less than two months away....

[H/T to friend of the blog CRR]

*OK, technically I'm No. 172,268 on the wait list, BUT someday I will has petite lap giraffe.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Always wear underwear

[Alternate title: "Don't Hike on a Bluff in the Buff."]

Unless you are Sharon Stone or Britney Spears, ladies, remember, it is always a good idea to wear underwear -- if not full attire -- when hiking. Because you never know when you might get stuck and need to be rescued -- with a camera crew filming the incident and airing it on Fox News and YouTube.

[When you have a minute, check out the comments on YouTube.]

Note to self: Remember to pack extra undies for your San Diego trip -- and avoid Black's Beach at Torrey Pines State Park.

UPDATED: It pays to have relatives in La Jolla. Here's a video featuring the very attractive (formerly naked) hiker! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

American Idol Top 11: Motown = Mo of the same? (UPDATED)

What happened to American Idol taking a fresh new approach in Season 10, shaking things up a bit? Cause except for a couple of new judges (Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez), I'm seeing and hearing same old, same old. And now we get yet another tired American Idol theme night, the songs of Motown.

I've got nothing against the songs and sounds of Motown, but been there done that -- multiple times. Guess American Idol sponsor Ford thought it would be good for business.

Anyway, on with the show....

[Judges aside: What is with J. Lo's ballerina outfit and the light-blue eye shadow and over-rouging? I love J. Lo and think she's fierce, but... she's not 19 anymore.]

Casey Abrams singing "I Heard It through the Grapevine": Good song choice for Casey. The boy's got soul. I heard it through the grapevine that Casey's making it into the Top 10. My grade for the pinstripe-suit-wearing Mr. Abrams: A. (I agree with Steven Tyler: Casey Abrams is a [great] entertainer. But then again so was Taylor Hicks. The big question: What kind of album would Casey make, and would it sell? That said, he's got my vote.)

Thia Megia singing "Heat Wave": Finally, something up tempo (in theory). So listen, I know the girl can sing -- and this is definitely a better choice for Thia, but... she still doesn't sound like a 16-year-old, and she kinda turned it into a ballad. I have a feeling the judges will love it, but it was just all right for me, dawg. ("Let loose"?! Really? Yikes. Though J. Lo was dead on with the acting/connecting to the lyrics comment. Good call. And I agree with Randy Jackson that she kicked it up a notch tonight, though still has more to do.) My grade for Thia Megia: B+

Jacob Lusk singing "You're All I Need to Get By": Another good song choice (in theory). But... toooo sloooow. Don't know bout y'all but I like me some fireworks. Again, Jacob has a beautiful voice and has good stage presence but it seems like he's holding back (and that jacket is doing him no favors. Get me wardrobe -- stat!). Jacob will definitely make it into the Top 10, but it was not an OMG performance. Sorry Randy. My grade for Jacob Lusk: A-

Lauren Alaina singing "You Keep Me Hanging On": So is Lauren a little diva? Is American Idol creating a monster? Hmm... But getting back to Lauren's performance, she sounds as though she's still not feeling 100 percent. Again, the girl's got mad vocals, and a big personality, but she seems a bit subdued tonight (though props to her stylist and makeup artist). Our grade for Lauren Alaina (cause the spouse is in the house): A-/B+. She can do better, though she'll totally make it into the Top 10.

Stefano Langone singing "Hello": Goodbye. I HATE "Hello." Actually hate is not a strong enough word. Hearing "Hello" makes me want to cut myself or curl up in a ball. So the fact I am actually listening to this is a supreme act of selflessness. No, Stefano, it is not you I am looking for. And I don't really think you love me. But I know of a couple of cruise ships that are hiring. You want to win my heart? Promise me you will never ever sing a Lionel Richie song again. EVER. Sigh. Made it. Based on the song choice alone, I would give Stefano an F, but based on vocals, and the spouse, we give Stefano Langone's performance a B-. (Jennifer Lopez may be right, though not in the way she meant: after tonight's performance Stefano may be flying off the stage... home.)

Haley Reinhart singing "You Really Got a Hold on Me": Okay, she's got a hold on me. And got some good advice and direction from Jimmy Iovine. Good performance. Really like her voice, and she's definitely connecting better, but she's just not exciting the spouse (a former musician), which doesn't bode well. The problem for Haley is still: Who is she? What kind of artist does she want to be? She sang the song very well, but that's not enough to win it. She should be safe this week. My grade for Haley Reinhart: B+/A-

Scotty McCreery singing "For Once in My Life": Beware the lounge singer (aka the Curse of Simon Cowell)! Love Scotty, but I suddenly feel like I'm watching an episode of Hee Haw or an old episode of Live from the Grand Ole Opry. YES, Steven Tyler, that totally sounded like Glen Campbell, but not in a good way. I agree, it wasn't Scotty's best performance, but he should be safe (fingers crossed). Our grade Scotty McCreery: B ("It was cheesy," said the spouse.)

Pia Toscano singing "All in Love Is Fair": Don't know it, but that may not mean anything. Sounds like Jimmy Iovine has already decided she's a winner (if not the winner). And that outfit is definitely going to win Pia some votes. But... I'm bored. Yawn. Yeah, yeah, yeah, she too has mad vocals (to quote Randy Jackson, "the girl can sing!"), but that performance left me flat. Please, Pia, could you sing something up tempo? Please? Enough with the ballads. Like J. Lo, I need more. Our grade for Pia Toscano: B/B+. Again, she's safe, but she needs to switch it up.

Paul McDonald singing "Tracks of My Tears": Heck, everything makes Paul jump around the stage. And it sounds like Jimmy Iovine is a big Paul fan. Interesting. Like Paul's voice, and glad he's feeling better this week, but he's just not wowing me with this performance. I think it was the wrong song choice. And his pawing at the stage like a horse is disconcerting. (Hate to break it to you, Paul, but you're not the life of this party, at least not tonight.) Our grade for Paul McDonald: B

Naima Adedapo singing "Dancing in the Street": Finally, another up tempo song. Yay! ("Not expecting good things from her," says the spouse, the killjoy.) And I'm lovin' her outfit and look. You go, girl. A little too slow, but at least it's not pitchy! I will say this for Naima, she definitely owns the stage and always looks likes she's having fun. Just wish she'd focus a bit more on her singing. Still, not bad, dawg, not bad. We give Naima Adedapo a B (a compromise between my B+ and the spouse's B-, who keeps saying "she's just not that good" and "this is why you need Simon Cowell").

James Durbin singing "Living for the City": Sorry, can't get past James Durbin as Adam Lambert Lite. Yes, he can sing, but whenever I see and hear him I am instantly reminded of Adam, who I thought was way more original. Good performance, but I just don't see a "wow" factor, though I'm not a 16-year-old girl (or Jennifer Lopez). To once again quote (the old) Randy Jackson, it was just all right for me, dawg. But James is totally in the Top 10. Our grade for James Durbin: B+

All right, Idol fans, that's it for me tonight. Will be back tomorrow to add who got voted off.

J-TWO-O out.

UPDATED 3/24/11: Wow. Wow. Wow. I cannot believe Casey Abrams was in the bottom three -- and that America chose Stefano Langone over him. WTF America?! Hurray for the judges' save. Note to self: Vote for Casey next week. Just when you think American Idol cannot surprise...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Death by Chocolate

Okay, maybe "death" by chocolate is a bit strong. But if I had had one more piece, bite, or sip of chocolate yesterday afternoon on our Boston Chocolate Tour of Beacon Hill, I would have surely gone into a sugar coma. Indeed, my blood sugar is still recovering. (My daughter, on the other hand, felt she had died and gone to heaven after spending 2.5 hours sampling all sorts of fabulous chocolates on our Boston chocolate tour.)

So how much chocolate did I consume over the course of 2.5 hours? Too much. But rather than describe each stop or chocolate confection in words, I will share with you some pictures I took on the Beacon Hill Boston Chocolate Walking Tour (because a picture is worth 1,000 calories).

Our first stop was boYO, for Boston Yogurt, where we were served oreo frozen yogurt (which the group felt was good but a bit too tart)...

The next stop on the tour was Beacon Hill Chocolates, a lovely little chocolate shop chock full of all milk, dark, and white chocolate treats, some of which are pictured below.

We got to sample the Beacon Hill Signature (Dark) Chocolate and the Gentille, a "rich and creamy milk chocolate mocha ganache mixed with coffee bean pieces and coated in Belgian milk chocolate" (which were gobbled up too quickly for me to get a picture of them).

A few doors down was Twig, a florist that also sells candles and... (wait for it) chocolate! Among Twig's several chocolate offerings was this heavenly smelling MarieBelle Aztec Hot Chocolate, which we didn't buy. But we did buy a package of the Taza Guajillo Chili Chocolate Mexicano (not pictured -- but which you can see and buy if you click on the link). OMG. Soooo amazing. (Talk about hot chocolate!)

Just a couple doors down was Isabelle's Curly Cakes, a cupcake bakery run by Isabelle English, daughter of chef Todd English (which was good, but it paled in comparison to my friend Little Miss Cupcake's Sugar Daze in Paris).

At Isabelle's Curly Cakes, we sampled the Triple Chocolate cupcake, which was topped with a Cocoa Puff streusel. (While I was not cuckoo for the Cocoa Puffs, I liked the chocolate butter cream frosting -- and thought many of Curly Cakes' other cupcakes looked and sounded better. But many others on our tour loved the cupcakes and bought some to go.)

And just when I was absolutely positive I could not possibly eat one more piece of chocolate we arrived at 75 Chestnut for our Chocolate Soup (below) -- which is one of the most amazing chocolate desserts I have ever sipped (or eaten). Espresso? HA! That's for wimps.

But we were not done! (Groan.) We still had two stops left on our Boston Chocolate Tour, including Boston's own Finale Desserterie and Bakery, where mercifully I only had to consume a single bite of brownie, albeit with chocolate ganache on top. (As delicious as they all looked, no way could I have consumed one of these delectable chocolate dessert pastries pictured below. Maybe next time.)

On the verge of going into a sugar coma (did I mention I'm hypoglycemic?), we arrived at The Melting Pot, our final destination, for... yes, more chocolate! Specifically, chocolate fondue -- four different kinds.

I bravely dipped some banana and strawberry into the dark chocolate and marshmallow fondue placed in front of me, but I drew the line at dipping the chocolate-covered (and regular) marshmallows and cheesecake and brownies on offer, or trying the other three chocolate dipping sauces. (J-THREE-O and her friend had no such qualms.)

Finally, chock full of chocolate, and barely able to move, we said our goodbyes, hiked back down Charles Street, retrieved our car, and motored home.

I will never eat chocolate again. (Or at least not for the next 24 hours. ;-)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Finally, a diet we can live with. Thanks Jimmy K!

I seriously think that if this late night talk show host comedian thing doesn't work out for Jimmy Kimmel, he could have a career as a health and fitness guru.

Anyway, if you loved Jimmy Kimmel's Hottie Body Hump Club (aka Humpilates), check out his latest health and fitness video, The Hottie Body Jim-Miracle Diet, which features even more of Hollywood's sexiest leading ladies (Scarlett Johansson, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Alba, Anna Farris, Heidi Klum...) -- and Doogie Howser M.D., Neil Patrick Harris!

[How does he get all those people to appear in his videos?! Talk about a miracle.]

Btw, I can totally vouch for Jimmy Kimmel's Hottie Body Jim-Miracle Diet: having someone else eat four-fifths of your food definitely helps you lose weight. Weigh to go, Jimmy K!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

American Idol Top 12 perform songs from the year they were born

Why don't American Idol producers just call it Lite FM or Classic Rock Night instead of "Songs from the Year the Performers Were Born"? I know, I know: that would scare viewers -- and the point of the evening or exercise is to see if American Idol contestants can make these 15- or 20- or 25-year-old songs sound contemporary. Yeah, good luck with that.

I am already bored and depressed by American Idol Season 10 after initially being excited, mainly by the new judges (note to Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez: we won't hate you if you tell someone they sucked) and (supposedly) more contemporary approach and producers. I thought I was going to get new and exciting this season. Instead I'm hearing same old, same old. Paging Simon Cowell's X Factor.

Granted, there is nothing truly new under the sun -- or on the Idol stage: James Durbin is Adam Lambert 2.0 (the hetero version); Lauren Alaina is a younger Kelly Clarkson; and Casey Abrams (whom I think is very talented) is a younger, hipper Taylor Hicks (whom I also really liked -- as did millions of American Idol voters). But I was hoping for... I don't know. Some excitement.

ANYWAY, on with the show, which is live this week.

NAIMA ADEDAPO singing Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do with It": OMG, stop with the water works already, Naima. Get a grip, girl. (Listening.) Erg. Uh. Merp. Not good, dawg. Not good at all. Very pitchy -- or as we now say, she was really off-key. WHA?! Steven Tyler LOVED that?! Are you kidding me? What's in his cup? OMG, did Jennifer Lopez just say that Naima is consistently pitchy?! Hallelujah! And yes, Randy, the vocals were a mess. FINALLY, the judges are getting tough. I like Naima Adedapo, but she is not this year's American Idol -- and unless someone does a whole lot worse, she's gone. My grade for that performance: C

PAUL MCDONALD singing Elton John's "Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues": Question: How does Paul sing when his pants are so tight? Just curious. Though the bigger problem is his cold. "Not good," says the spouse. And I have to agree. I think it's the laryngitis, but still... it's not a good performance. Very pitchy -- and just weird. I feel bad for the guy, because we know he can sing, but that was a hot mess. And J. Lo, it did NOT sound good. (So much for Jennifer Lopez getting tough -- or at least honest.) Thank God for Randy Jackson? Our grade for Paul McDonald (cause the spouse is watching with me): C

THIA MEGIA singing Vanessa Williams' "Colors of the Wind": Bleh. Yawn. Why is this 16-year-old singing like some 50-something lounge act? Simon Cowell would be all over her. Again, thank you, Randy Jackson. That was boring as hell -- and the only reason it was safe was because Naima and Paul were worse. Memo to Thia: STOP SINGING BALLADS. Remember the magic two words: SONG CHOICE. Balladeers don't make it to the top. Our grade for Thia Megia: B-

JAMES DURBIN singing Bon Jovi's "I'll Be There for You": Is everyone going to be off-key tonight? SIGH. Sadly, James Durbin is no Jon Bon Jovi. Also, is it me, or does this arrangement seem really slow? Maybe it's just because I'm bored. Again, don't know what Steven Tyler was listening to. That performance was mediocre at best -- not great, J. Lo. Though it was better than the previous three performances. Anyone else missing Adam Lambert? Our grade for James Durbin: B

HALEY REINHART singing Whitney Houston's "I'm Your Baby Tonight": Is she trying to sing "I'm Your Baby Tonight" as a country song? A jazz standard? I'm confused. What I want from you -- and the rest of the Idol contestants -- Haley, is one really exciting, pitch-perfect performance. Really, is that too much to ask? Uh-oh, the dreaded "You look so beautiful tonight," from Jennifer Lopez. So you know something bad is coming. Ding ding ding. Haley's performance did sound forced. And Randy's right on: it was just OK. So is Haley the one going home tomorrow? Can we send all five of them home tomorrow? Cause I don't think I can take this for another two-plus months. Our grade for Haley Reinhart: B-

STEFANO LANGONE singing Simply Red's "If You Don't Know Me By Now": Of all the songs Stefano could have chosen.... Sigh. Why do I feel like I'm at a wedding -- that's winding down? The sad thing is, so far this is the best performance, vocally, of the evening. But I am soooo bored. "Schmaltz," says the husband. Bleh, says J-TWO-O. (J-THREE-O has stopped watching Idol.) For the record, I said it was the best performance of the evening before Randy did. Ahem. Our grade for Stefano Langone: B+ (barely)

PIA TOSCANO singing Whitney Houston's "Where Do Broken Hearts Go": Can the producers please ban Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Mariah Carey songs? Pleeeease. Where do broken hearts go? They watch American Idol and blog about it... week after week. SIGH. I like Pia's voice, and she's on key, but it's a very safe, very boring song and performance. I want to hear her sing something that gets me out of my seat, not falling asleep in it. But I know the judges will love it. Ding ding ding. Thanks for proving my point, Steven Tyler (and J. Lo and Randy). And that's up tempo? Geez. Maybe for a funeral. Our grade for Pia Toscano (who I predict will make it into the Top 3): A-/B+

SCOTTY MCCREERY singing Travis Tritt's "Can I Trust You with My Heart": Quick aside: The spouse swears that Scotty looks like Alfred E. Newman, and I have to agree. He also agrees with me that Scotty can sing -- and will have a career whether or not he wins Idol. Not my favorite song, but I do love Scotty's voice -- and he brings it every time. At some point, he's going to have to branch out, but you know what? I think he'll be fine. I don't know if he can trust me with his heart, but he can trust me with a vote. For me that was the best performance of the evening. Our grade for Scotty McCreery: A-

KAREN RODRIGUEZ singing Taylor Dane's "Love Will Lead You Back": Just. Shoot. Me. "CHEESE," says the spouse. Make that Cheez Whiz. "But she's got some serious boots." That spouse, he can find the good in anything. "And she's got some serious hair." True dat. She's also got some serious pitch problems. Yet another uninspiring, boring performance. Yawn. Karen will be safe this week, but she's a goner. Our grade for Karen Rodriguez: B (for bleh)

CASEY ABRAMS singing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit": Pretty gutsy move. "He takes the prize for the night," says the spouse -- and I have to agree. "It was so anti-Thia," he added, which was a compliment. And I liked it too. HAVE NO IDEA WHAT J. LO WAS BITCHIN' ABOUT. OMG, SHUT UP, Randy. It's not all about you. And I disagree about it not being great vocally. Thought it was a great performance. In fact, it may have been my favorite of the evening, mainly because it didn't bore me -- and I like Casey (though those blinding white calves!). Our grade for Casey Abrams: A/A-

LAUREN ALAINA singing Melissa Etheridge's "I'm Not the Only One" with the flu: Good song choice, but no song is going to sound great when you have the flu. Someone get the contestants a family-size bottle of hand sanitizer -- stat. (Wonder how many contestants are going to make it to the results show tomorrow?) Considering Lauren has the flu, not bad, dawg. Not bad. Not great, but clearly the girl can sing -- and that was MUCH better than the first four performances tonight. And props to Lauren for giving it her all despite having the flu (and clearly not being 100%). We give Lauren Alaina an A-, and if she had been healthy, I bet it would be an A. (She is so going to be in the Top 3.)

JACOB LUSK singing Heart's "Alone": I hear the ticking of the clock -- and can't wait for Idol to be OVER. Love Heart, not loving Jacob's performance of "Alone." Just not working for me. Bad song choice. And Jacob can sing. Just too outside his wheelhouse -- and pitchy. The judges will love it though -- and Jacob will be safe. Our grade for Jacob Lusk: A-/B+

That's it for me, fellow American Idol masochists (i.e., viewers who watch American Idol week after week expecting something different). Will post who got sent home tomorrow tonight. My prediction as to who will be in the Top 3 this year: Pia Toscano, Scotty McCreery, and Lauren Alaina -- and, if he stays healthy, Casey Abrams (making it my Top 4 pick).

UPDATED: And Karen Rodriguez gets voted off Idol island. Should have been Naima, based on singing, but Karen was destined to adios eventually (IMO).

The true meaning of St. Patrick's Day

Growing up, I pretty much associated St. Patrick's Day with shamrock shakes, green carnations, and people drinking too much beer (and urinating on Madison Avenue).

When I got older, and became an adult, and moved to Chicago, I associated St. Patrick's Day with dying the Chicago River green, and drinking too much beer.

But last summer, after visiting the West Coast of Ireland, and seeing Croagh Patrick, the mountain where St. Patrick reputedly fasted for 40 days before casting all the snakes out of Ireland...

and the statue erected in honor of St. Patrick in the main square in Westport, Ireland...

I realized that the true meaning of St. Patrick's Day was...

An excuse to drink a pint (or two) of Guinness. (Or some other beer.)

Some things never change.

Wishing you all a Happy -- and safe -- St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Charlie Sheen, the Next Food Network Star

When I first heard about this Funny or Die video, titled "Charlie Sheen's Winning Recipes," I thought it was a joke. But I actually think Sheen may be onto something here. After all, if the (former) drug-using, chain-smoking, manic Anthony Bourdain can have a successful show about food and cooking, why not (former?) drug-using, chain-smoking, manic Charlie Sheen? Winning!

Anyway, take a look at "Charlie Sheen's Winning Recipes" -- and tell me that you don't think Food Network should not snatch this guy up pronto.

Seriously, Sheen could be the next Emeril Lagasse. Just replace "Bam!" with "Winning!"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring into a good book (book recommendations)

Ah spring (albeit still, technically, a week away), a time of renewal and hope -- and to read a good book. And I have read many excellent books the past few months (as well as a couple of not very good, bordering on dreadful, ones).

Following is a list of the best -- or most notable -- books I've read since my last Book Nook post in December. (Note: To see a list of all my Book Nook posts and book recommendations, click here.) And I've decided to switch things up a bit by categorizing them by genre. Sort of. Though, as per usual, the link will take you to a description on

Herewith some spring book recommendations...

If you are a fan of historical fiction, as I am, check out these books.

The True Memoirs of Little K by Adrienne Sharp. A fascinating look back at the last days of tsarist Russia, as told by a 100-year-old former prima ballerina assoluta of the tsar’s Russian Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg -- who was the mistress of a young Nicholas Romanov, before he became Nicholas II. A must read for fans of ballet -- and for those interested in Russian history.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell. A poignant, beautifully written book about a too-honest Dutchman working for the Dutch East India Company in foreigner-hating, ritual-shrouded turn-of-the-19th-century Japan. Some have described this book as a historical romance, which in some ways it is. But if you go in expecting a kimono ripper, you will be disappointed.

The Apothecary’s Daughter
by Julie Klassen. Speaking of historical romance, The Aphothecary's Daughter definitely falls into this category -- though again, do not expect any bodice ripping (sadly). I don't know how, but I accidentally keep picking up books that are categorized as "historical fiction" that are actually "Christian romance" novels. And let me just say that after reading two Christian romance novels in the last six months (the other was too dreadful to even name -- and I'm still amazed I finished it), I am desperate for a good (albeit well-written) bodice ripper, where people do more than give each other longing looks (if you catch my drift). All that said, I enjoyed this book, which takes place in Regency England, and gives one a good sense of what an apothecary does -- and the role of women (or lack thereof) in trade at that time.

If you are a fan of good nonfiction, check out...

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto edited by Joan Reardon. This book had me longing for the days when people sent each other long, thoughtful letters -- by what we now affectionately refer to as "snail mail." (I still have a box of letters and postcards I received from friends, via snail mail, from the 1980s and 1990s, before the advent or popularity of email.) I also found myself incredibly envious of the Childs and their fascinating, peripatetic life and friends -- and in awe of the amazingly accomplished (and underpaid and under-appreciated) Avis DeVoto. Only passingly familiar with the leading political figures and thinkers of 1950s America, I learned a good deal about them and that time from this book. A fascinating read, especially if you are a fan of Julia Child and/or France and/or U.S. post-World War II history.

Secretariat: The Making of a Champion by William Nack. A great book about a great horse. If you love horses and/or racing, this is a must read -- and is NOTHING like the Disney film, Secretariat, which was mainly fiction. (After reading this, I may have to go back and read Seabiscuit: An American Legend, another great book about a great horse.)

At Home by Bill Bryson. This book, the subtitle of which is "a short history of private life," totally sceeved me out, but it is a fascinating read. Want to know how bedrooms and bathrooms and living rooms came to be bedrooms and bathrooms and living rooms? Read the book.

The Secret of Chanel No. 5
by Tilar J. Mazzeo. If you are in marketing and/or like perfume, I recommend The Secret of Chanel No. 5. Not the best written book (by a long shot -- too breathy and repetitive), nor does it reveal any huge secret, but it is an entertaining, fast read with many interesting anecdotes about Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, the perfume she created (and almost immediately sold the rights to, Chanel No. 5), and World War II era Paris.

If you like good literature, check out...

Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie. Again, the word poignant comes to mind when describing this Pulitzer Prize-winning book about two very different English professors on sabbatical in London in the 1980s, which I had a love-hate relationship with. Having lived in and visited London many times in the late 1980s, and cultivated many British friends during that time, I found myself identifying with the older, English-loving spinster-esque female professor, Virginia Miner, and loathing the handsome, young, totally un-self-aware male English professor. (I know: huge surprise. Not.) A must read for English professors and Anglophiles.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. I couldn't put this book down -- and read most of its 549 pages in one sitting. That's how spellbinding it was. If you read Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, or just enjoy a good English mystery, especially ones with good English gardens, you must read The Forgotten Garden, a story about two Australian women, grandmother and granddaughter, searching for their past and their future in Cornwall, England.

Fancy a good mystery? In addition to The Forgotten Garden, check out the Her Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen. (These charming books could also be filed under "historical fiction" as they take place in England -- and Europe -- during the 1930s and feature real places and people.) While Bowen is no Agatha Christie, her Royal Spyness series is a fun, quick read for mystery buffs and Anglophiles.

And that, I think, is enough book recommendations for one post. Will be back in June or July with some beach reading.

In the meantime, please suggest additional books in the Comments. I value every suggestion, and have read many of them over the years. I just don't post them if they are included in a previous post or in the comments of a previous post, but I know many of my thousands of readers (yes, thousands of people read this blog -- shocking, I know) read them. Also, as previously stated, I am always on the lookout for a fun, lighthearted read -- something that will not depress the hell out of me or give me nightmares.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Leave God and Country out of it

I am so sick and tired of politicians (and athletes and celebrities) using God and Country as an excuse for bad behavior (and wars). Or invoking God and/or Country to erase or cover up past sins.

And while Newt Gingrich is not the first and certainly not the last politician running for office to use God's name in vain (at least I hope it will be in vain), I found his recent comments about his extramarital affairs not only disingenuous but despicable. As did MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, who corrected Gingrich's statement in the following clip, which aired on his show The Last Word last night.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Bravo, Lawrence O'Donnell. Bravo.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

American Idol Season 10: The Top 13 Perform (though not very well)

So instead of weeks of semifinals, this season of American Idol we went from having the Top 12 Guys and Top 12 Girls straight to the Top 13, period. Isn't 13 supposed to be unlucky? Clearly, it will be unlucky for someone (or possibly two someones).

Also, just like last week, tonight's episode of American Idol was pre-taped (boo), supposedly to iron out some technical stuff before the show goes live next week (uh huh).

The only good news about tonight's American Idol being pre-taped is that a lot of info about the show has already leaked out, including tonight's theme, Your Personal Idol (who has not recorded anything relevant in over 15 years). Oy. And the order. And who's singing what. Double uh oh.

Anyway, on with the show!

Lauren Alaina - "Any Man of Mine" (Shania Twain). Raise your hand if you thought Lauren Alaina was a rocker? (Okay, hands down. Wait, when did Don Was become a Hassid?) Also, why did the producers put Lauren first? I thought they liked her. And why do I feel like I'm watching an episode of Hee Haw or Live from the Grand Ole Opry? SIGH. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the girl can sing. But -- all together now: SONG CHOICE SONG CHOICE SONG CHOICE. And that one SUCKED. Did Jimmy Iovine recommend that? Just doesn't make sense. And you know it had to be bad if Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez (gently) panned it. My grade for Lauren Alaina: B-. (J-THREE-O, who is making tomorrow's lunch in the kitchen, just shouted up "I give Lauren a B+!") If she makes it to next week, please let her sing a rock song.


Casey Abrams - "With a Little Help from My Friends" (Joe Cocker). Aw, Casey was a cute kid! (Yikes! I'm being blinded by Casey's super white calves! Make him put on long pants! PHEW.) What would I do if you sang out a tune? Well, Casey, if you don't sing it out of key, I may vote for you. Okay, I'm digging it. Good song choice. (See kids, this is how you choose a song.) I'm thinking Casey Abrams is going to have a lot of friends after this performance -- and will definitely get by (the judges). Survey says: A. (Really like Casey but I got two words for you: Taylor Hicks.)

Ashthon Jones - "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" (Diana Ross). Is ANYONE surprised Ashthon chose a Diana Ross song? Anyone? And if she screws up, can we blame that producer? And... Ashthon is no Diana Ross. Not even close. SIGH. In the words of (the old) Randy Jackson: Yo, I love you, but that was kinda pitchy, dawg. Sorry, Ashthon, no way can I tell you that I love you. That was BAD. (And I can NOT believe Randy liked it. And did Steven Tyler just ding her performance? I do believe he did. Ditto J. Lo. Though she had to go and do a backflip at the end. SIGH. Paging Simon Cowell.) Our grade for Ashthon Jones: B-. Bad song choice.

Paul McDonald - "Come Pick Me Up" (Ryan Adams). Mea culpa. When I read this week's American Idol's spoilers I thought Paul was singing Bryan Adams. Though right now, I'm wishing he had. I'm also getting dizzy watching Paul jump up and down and skip all over the stage. Stand still and SING the dang song, Paul. Two words: HATED IT. It was off key and boring as heck. Paul will probably make it another week, but he could be in the bottom three. My grade (cause everyone else left): B/B-.

Just curious: How many J. Lo commercials you think we're going to see tonight?

Pia Toscano - "All By Myself" (Celine Dion). Oooo shiny. Nice dress, Pia! (Though what is up -- or down -- with the pink chiffon train?) Let's just hope that dress won't be the best part of tonight's performance.... Anyone else feel like they're in the lounge of some Portuguese cruise ship? Anybody? Wait... what?! Really, J. Lo? Really? I mean, it wasn't bad. But no way was that anywhere near Celine Dion -- or Pia's best performance. Seriously, I don't know what the judges heard. Have they heard the Celine Dion version? SIGH. I give Pia Toscano a B+ because I know she can sing, and she has really good hair.

James Durbin - "Maybe I'm Amazed" (Paul McCartney). Maybe I'll be amazed. Would be nice. Cause so far this season of American Idol is another big disappointment. Okay, I like James Durbin's voice (minus the Adam Lambert scream), but I swear the song is waaaay tooo sloooow. Liked his first version in the rehearsal. But clearly, what do I know? You KNOW the judges will LOVE it. (Ding ding ding, Randy Jackson drops the "Journey" card! FINALLY.) Dudes, I give James Durbin a B+ (bordering on an A-).

Haley Reinhart - "Blue" (LeAnn Rimes). And now... (off-key) YODELING! Yee-haw! Yup, that there American Idol show's got it all. I am seriously speechless. Also, was the whole show taped in slo-mo? Again, I totally prefer the original. (This wasn't even close.) But Haley can sing. I give Haley Reinhart a B, for boring. Nice dress and hair, though.

Jacob Lusk - "I Believe I Can Fly" (R. Kelly). I believe this was the wrong song for Jacob, whom I love. (Though I loved the Space Jam reference.) Just not exciting me. And he was sharp, which is surprising. SIGH. I give Jacob Lusk a B (for boring me -- and I so wanted to love his performance).

Anyone else think having Jimmy Iovine and his posse "mentor" the contestants was a bad idea? Also, really missing Simon Cowell about now.

Thia Megia - "Smile" (Michael Jackson). Does ANYONE attribute "Smile" to Michael Jackson?! And I don't remember Charlie Chaplin being a recording artist. (Did they even have Idol back then? Or records?) Not smiling. They I don't hate it either. Still, would be nice if they could PICK UP THE FRIGGIN' BEAT. The girl is 16 years old and sounds and looks like she's on the Lawrence Welk Show. Like Thia Megia's voice, but not a great song choice. I give it a B. Hope she switches it up next week. (And hope the judges do too. Seriously, what's the point of having judges if they don't judge?!)

Hey Idol producers, did we really need to see Thia crying? No way she's getting voted off tonight now.

Stefano Langone - "Lately" (Stevie Wonder). Why do I find it hard to believe a) that Stefano's personal idol is Stevie Wonder and b) that this was the best Stevie Wonder song for him? (That would be a rhetorical question.) I think Randy Jackson's face just said it all. WHA?! "Goodbye" Stefano. You may last another week, but if you keep singing songs like "Lately," you won't be around much longer -- and I don't see Celebrity Cruises hiring you anytime soon. Seriously, I have NO IDEA what the judges were listening to. That did NOT sound great. At all. I give Stefano Langone a B-, though I am really wishing the judges has chosen Lauren Turner instead of him.

Karen Rodriguez - "I Could Fall in Love" (Selena). Oh. My. God. Can Jennifer Lopez recuse herself? I can't believe Karen chose a Selena song. By which I mean, I totally believe it. And I swear J. Lo wore THAT SAME OUTFIT in the movie. Freaky! Sorry, Karen, but no way am I falling in love with you. ("Star Search!" just shouted the spouse, who has rejoined me -- and I don't think he meant it in a good way.) Yet another mediocre, karaoke, Portuguese cruise ship performance. And is that criticism I just heard from Jennifer Lopez? Whoa. Totally agree with Randy: YAWN. "She's gone," said the spouse, and I've got to agree. We give Karen Rodriguez a C, as in Ciao (and I don't mean hello).

Save us, Scotty McCreery!

Scotty McCreery - "The River" (Garth Brooks). Yet another boring song choice, but I still like Scotty. (I got nothing snarky to say, people. This show has worn me down, and, like I said, I really like Scotty. "He's the real deal," said the spouse. And he loves baseball -- Scotty, though the spouse likes it too, but probably not as much as I do.) We give Scotty McCreery an A.

Naima Adedapo - "Umbrella" (Rihanna). She's off key but I think "Umbrella" was an okay song choice for Naima -- and I'm loving her dance moves and that little reggae twist halfway through. Not bad, not bad. We give Naima Adedapo a B+.

Well, thank God that's over. Will add who got booted off Idol Island tomorrow night. J-TWO-O out.

UPDATED: Not a bring suprise, Ashthon went home. Yawn.

Cats with thumbs + Beam me up, Priceline (new William Shatner ad)

Sure, I thought about writing on some really important topic, like bullying (it's not just for kids!), or the ongoing Federal budget stalemate, or the Middle East crisis, or the rising price of oil (and gold) and the threat of inflation, even Charlie Sheen. But why blog about those downer topics when you can blog about cats with thumbs (possibly the funniest ad ever) and Priceline's latest "Negotiator" ad, featuring William Shatner and a lot of Star Trek (the original series) references? I know!

So first up, this hysterically funny ad for Cravendale milk, a dairy in the United Kingdom, titled "Cats with Thumbs":

And the new Priceline Negotiator ad featuring William Shatner (and a lot of Star Trek references), titled "Department of Negotiation":

How many Star Trek references did you count? (You just know some Trekkie or Trekker out there has done this.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Jimmy Kimmel on Charlie Sheen, goddesses (VIDEOS)

Forget Jay Leno and David Letterman -- even Conan O'Brien. Jimmy Kimmel is hands down the most brilliant late night television comedian/host. Who can forget Kimmel's "Handsome Men's Club"? (I know I can't.)

And now we have Charlie Sheen, Hollywood's latest gift to Jimmy Kimmel.

First there was the Kimmel Kartoon "Charlie Brown and Charlie Sheen," where Jimmy Kimmel mashed up a recent Charlie Sheen interview with a Peanuts cartoon...

And more recently there was "The Jetsons and Charlie Sheen," a mashup of The Jetsons and Charlie Sheen's interview with Piers Morgan...

I know what you're thinking: Forget the drugs. What about the goddesses? Never fear. You want goddesses, check out Jimmy Kimmel's Hottie Body Hump Club video, featuring Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, and a bevy of Hollywood beauties. (Talk about goddesses.)


Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Island of Kittens*

Imagine an island where no dogs are allowed...

And the cats are quite happy about it...

Where kittens are free to roam where they please...

And cat food magically appears two or three times a day...

And humans are helpless to resist their feline overlords.

Hmm... On second thought, I don't think it's too hard to imagine such a place. Do you?

*I thought about calling this post "A Tale of Two Kittehs," but there were actually six kittens, just as the place we stayed on St. Martin, as well as three cats.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My warm happy place

I wasn't always an anxious, uptight bitch. In fact, sometimes I can be downright mellow. And it doesn't even require alcohol or drugs. Just need a few warm, sunny days, a body of water (preferably with a beach attached), good food (that someone else cooked and cleaned up), and no computers -- in other words a few days, unplugged, on St. Martin. (Picture me as this contented cat, minus the three dozen bottles of rum -- and enjoying a higher grade of cat food.)

Ah... paradise. (FYI, all the pictures are mine, taken with my new Canon PowerShot S95. Love that little camera. Love St. Martin. Until next year...)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

American Idol Season 10: Top 12 Girls - UPDATED (with results)

So much for "going live." As some (or many) of you may have read, last night and tonight's American Idol semifinal performances were pre-taped -- the guys on Friday, the girls on Monday. So producers had plenty of time to edit the film -- and bleep Steven Tyler. Feh.

Still, I'm looking forward to tonight's performances as I think the women of American Idol are due for a win -- and this year's crop of female Idol hopefuls are more promising than what I saw last night (though tonight could prove me wrong).

And now without further ado, the Top 12 Girls...

Ta-Tynisa Wilson: Ouch. Pitchy pitchy pitchy. Remind me why after BOMBING during Hollywood Week Ta-Tynisa was put through? Well, Rhianna has nothing to worry about. That was DREADFUL. Wait... WHA?! I don't know WTF Steven Tyler was talking about -- or listening to. Ditto Jennifer Lopez. Did I mention it was DREADFUL? (Randy: Sharp is an understatement.) We give Ta-Tynisa Wilson a C-, because we're feeling generous. But if she makes it to the finals we will be SHOCKED. We say Ta-Ta to Ta-Tynisa.

Naima Adedapo: Gee, "Summertime," because we haven't heard that before. :-/ But, gotta admit, I'm kinda grooving on Naima's upbeat arrangement. Definitely not a Fantasia clone. (Not that I thought she was.) Gotta give the girl some props. Now that was a good performance. We give her an A-. (The spouse liked it but said "That was a little 'Star Search'ish." Paging Ed McMahon? He also wants to know what that thing on Ryan Seacrest's head is. J-THREE-O thinks it's a hedgie, aka a hedgehog.)

Kendra Chantelle: Remind me who Kendra was? OK thanks. ("Some shoes," said the spouse.) Well, I think it's impossible that Kendra is the next American Idol, but that was a solid performance. Not going to vote for her, but may be enough to get her into the finals -- but she's no Christina Aguilera, at least in the singing department. We give Kendra Chantelle (what a name) a B/B+. ("Bad song choice," said the spouse. "Totally forgettable," said J-THREE-O.)

Rachel Zevita: Can totally see her at some cabaret in NYC -- not so much as the next American Idol. Wow, harsh, Randy. I didn't think it was that bad -- or that Broadway. She did go waaaay sharp. More importantly, both the spouse and I can totally see me wearing that dress. Wonder wear she got it. We give Rachel Zevita a B- ("though that may be generous," said the spouse; I was going to give her a B).

Karen Rodriguez: HATE "Hero." HATE HATE HATE. And Karen Rodriguez is no Mariah Carey, though she has an okay voice. But where's the passion? Her pitch was sharp, and that performance totally left me flat. Feh. WHA?! What performance was J. Lo listening to? Seriously, what is up with the acoustics over there? Hello? Is this thing on? Et tu, Steven? We give Ryan's Spanish a C- and the kid and spouse give Karen Rodriguez's performance a C+/B-; I give it a B.

Lauren Turner: No way is this chick the next American Idol. Or the next Bette Midler. Love her voice, and she's a performer -- and gave the best performance so far. Seriously loved it. But... I just don't see her as the next American Idol. (And yes, I know I'm repeating myself.) Agree with the Amy Winehouse analogy, btw. ("Her problem is she's a dog," said the spouse, who just had to explain what that means to J-THREE-O. Yup.) America, prove me wrong! We give Lauren Turner an A-.

Ashthon Jones: Love the hair. (J-THREE-O also has a pouf.) Not lovin' the song choice (or the shoes). Yawn. But I like Ashthon and hope she makes it into the Top 10. Good voice. The right look. And she can perform. "She has all the makings of a diva," said Jennifer Lopez, and I gotta agree. We give Ashthon Jones a B+. ("She was nothing special," said the spouse, who saw/heard Ashthon for the first time tonight. I actually think she is.)

Julie Zorrilla: Julie's been one of our favorite's since the audition, and not just because we love her cute skirts. But "Breakaway" was a really bad song choice. Really bad. ("Really out of tune," said the spouse.) And the band is drowning her out. And she kept sounding out of breath. Sigh. Note to Idol contestants: Don't try to outsing Kelly Clarkson. I'm with J. Lo and Randy 100%, not great, and Kelly did it better. And I really like Julie -- even thought she could be the next American Idol! But the spouse doesn't think she's making it into the Top 10. We give Julie Zorrilla a B-. Boo.

Haley Reinhart: Now Haley, on the other hand, is bringing it. Still prefer the Alicia Keys version of "Fallin'," but Haley's version is totally respectable (though could do without the growling). And she's not sharp! Hooray! We give Haley Reinhart an A-/B+, though I can see Randy's point about it being a bit karaoke. And I don't see Haley being the next American Idol either.

Thia Megia: AAARGH. What is it with the youngsters singing like old fogeys? We like Thia Megia, but OMG this is painful. Could it be any slower?! Awful. And she can sing! HATED IT. (J-THREE-O is so disgusted she just left the room -- to do HOMEWORK, which isn't even due tomorrow, for gosh sake.) Sigh. Yeah yeah yeah, she can sing, but there was NOTHING hot about that performance. Death. We give Thia Megia a B -- for Blah.

Lauren Alaina: FINALLY, an upbeat song! YAY! And a good (though not great) song choice (Reba McEntire's "On the Radio") to boot. Props to Miss Lauren Alaina. And I'm digging her makeover. We give her an A-. No way is Lauren not making it into the Top 10.

Pia Toscano: Why do I look so sad? Because almost everyone has chosen really crappy songs, Pia, including you. HAVE YOU PEOPLE LEARNED NOTHING IN 10 YEARS OF AMERICAN IDOL?! Sorry, chiquita, I'm not standing by you. Yeah, Pia can sing, and she's got the "whole package," as the judges like to say, but I can't vote for anyone who sings "I'll Stand By You." Still... pretty impressive. But we give Pia Toscano a B+. Would have been higher if not for the schmaltzy song choice factor.

My prediction: Lauren Alaina vs. Scotty McCreery in the finals.

Before I sign off, a quick word about the judges: I'm starting to miss Simon Cowell -- and find it odd that Randy has taken over that role. Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez are waaaay too wishy-washy -- zero help, so far. :-/

Come back tomorrow to find out who made it into the Top 10 - or 12. (Still a little confused about how this is going to work this season.)

UPDATED: Had to share perennial Idol reviewer Craig Berman's column on the Top 12 Girls. Priceless. He, too, is missing Simon.

UPDATED 3/3: And the Top 5 girls are... Lauren Alaina... Pia... Karen (boo)... Thia... and Haley (eh). I think America got it wrong. And joining them are... Ashthon... and Naima. Wow. Like Naima -- and wanted her to be in the Top 10, but her "singing for her life" performance sucked. And then there were 13. Until next week... J-TWO-O out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

American Idol Season 10: Top 12 Guys - UPDATED (with results)

After the HUGE disappointment that was last season's American Idol (aka American Idol Season 9: Simon Cowell's Last Hurrah), I had sworn off American Idol. Or so I thought. However, my curiosity about the new judges, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, got the better of me. So I decided to check it out.

And, though I reserve the right to change my mind (again), I am back on the American Idol bandwagon -- and ready to blog. (LOVE Steven Tyler. LOVE. And am totally cool with J. Lo too, though last week's crying jag wore on my nerves.)

Here's hoping this year's crop of hopefuls, themes, and song choices are better than last year's!

Now let the real singing commence, starting with... the Top 12 Guys. First up...

Clint Jun Gamboa, singing Stevie Wonder's "Superstition." Good voice, great sneakers. But no way is this guy the next American Idol. I give Clint a B+; J-THREE-O says "I give him an A-."


Jovany Barreto, aka the shipyard guy with the killer abs, singing some really sappy ballad "I'll Be." And I'll be darned if this guy is the next American Idol. Part of the next cast of Jersey Shore, sure. Idol? No. I'm with Randy Jackson, it was just OK -- kinda karaoke. J-THREE-O gives Jovany a B/B-; ditto.

Followed by...

Jordan Dorsey. OMG, he SUCKS. Sorry Jordan, but you are no Usher. Not even close. In the words of Randy Jackson, very pitchy, dawg. All I can say is OMG, thank God that's over. I give Jordan Dorsey a C-; J-THREE-O is feeling generous and gives Jordan a C.

Next up...

Tim Halperin, who we barely saw during the auditions and Hollywood Week. Shades of Kris Allen? Well, Rob Thomas has nothing to worry about. Yet another karaoke (pitchy) performance, dawgs. SIGH. Don't think Tim is making it into the Top 10. In a nutshell: song choice, song choice, song choice. I give Tim a B- for his weak version of "Come on Over." J-THREE-O was appalled. She gives Tim Halperin a C+.


Brett Loewenstern, whom I cannot stand. He's got a decent voice, but he is just too weird -- and coming from me that says a lot. Fortunately, I don't think his version of "Light My Fire" is going to light anyone's fire. More likely carrot top will go down in flames (at least here's hoping). WHA?! Steven Tyler, wha?! Were we listening to the same performance? Come on, J. Lo! At least Randy noticed Brett was pitchy. I give Brett Loewenstern a B-; J-THREE-O gives his performance a C+, but gives his hair an A.

And now...

James Durbin, screaming yet another song. Paging Adam Lambert. Okay... not hating it. Not loving it. Just not feeling it, though clearly Jennifer Lopez is. Still, Durbin probably has another week coming. And now that Steven Tyler and J. Lo have given James their blessing, no way is he going home this week. Et tu, Randy? Sigh. We give James Durbin's performance of "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" a B+.

Next up, the pride of Long Island...

Robbie Rosen, singing yet another sappy ballad, albeit singing it well -- though another minute of this and I'll be sound asleep. Seriously, Robbie, who died? You're 17 years old. Couldn't you pick something a little younger and more upbeat? Feh. Hated the song choice, but the boy's got a pretty voice. I give him an B+; J-THREE-O gives him a B, for majorly boring.

And now J. Lo fave...

Scotty McCreery, singing -- surprise! -- yet another country song! I admit, I kinda have a thing for Josh Turner, who Scotty sounds a whole lot like. That aside, J-THREE-O and I really like Scotty McCreery's voice, and he seems like a very nice young man. We give him an A/A-. If Scotty doesn't get into the Top 10, I'll be SHOCKED.

Followed by...

Stefano Langone, who is not one of my favorites. And he totally picked the wrong song in Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are," IOHO. Yet another karaoke bar performance. Yawn. (Did someone put Clint Jun Gamboa in charge of tonight's proceedings?) Don't know what Steven and Jennifer and Randy were listening to. Wasn't bad, but it PALED in comparison to the real deal. Could hear it on the radio right now? I don't think so. And I so do not find him the least bit good looking. Ugh. We give Stefano Langone a B.

And now...

Paul McDonald, who totally reminds me of the guy from Lady Antebellum. Or Rod Stewart, with a beard and a mustache -- minus the British accent and multiple wives and kids. Seriously, I'm strangely digging Paul's version of "Maggie May," though it is a little karaoke. And I totally dig his raspy, Rod Stewart-ish voice. Huh. I give Paul McDonald an A-/B+, while J-THREE-O says "B+/B."

Next up...

Jacob Lusk, who for some reason totally reminds me of Geoffrey Holder and has me craving a 7-UP right now. Not my favorite Jacob Lusk performance. The boy's got some mad vocals, but am just not loving the song choice ("A House Is Not a Home"). Still, he did better than some other guys I could name. And I hope he makes it to the Top 12, if not the Top 10. We give Jacob Lusk a B+ (though the song nearly put J-THREE-O to sleep).

And finally...

Casey Abrams, who we loved during Hollywood Week. But we also loved Taylor Hicks. And where is Taylor now? Yup. Sure, Casey Abrams is a great performer, and musician, and can sing, but who exactly is going to buy his records? Sure, applaud all you like, people, but this guy is NEVER going to be a best-selling artist. Still, we give Casey Abrams an A-.

That wraps it up for tonight, Idol fans. Come back tomorrow for a review of the Top 12 Girls. And on Thursday I'll post who was cut.

UPDATED 3/2: Wow. Just learned that last night's show was TAPED last Friday. What's up with that? Also many viewers in the NYC area were unable to phone in their votes due to "technical difficulties." I smell a fix...

UPDATED 3/3: And your Top 5 guys are... Scotty... Jacob... Casey... Paul... and James. No big surprises. And joining them is... Stefano. And there you have it, Idol fans. (Go to my Top 12 Girls post to see which ladies made it into the Top 13.) See you next week. J-TWO-O out.